Monday, 16 January 2012

Raising a Glass

The end of the old and the start to a new year is often a quiet period for relaxation and reflection.  That has not been my experience for the past few weeks.  New into role, with still so much to learn about the Group and its people, I have arrived just as business plans and budgets are being finalised.  In addition, I hit the tail end of the global performance appraisal reviews, with some excellent people all wanting ideas on how to become even more effective.  It’s hard to know what you don’t know, but fortunately I am not afraid of asking questions (no matter how dumb they might sound) and I think I am making sense of it all.  

Being The New Girl, I am able to experience first-hand the current approach towards on-boarding and induction.  Some of what we do is exemplary (such as giving new joiners meaningful time with individuals across the Group, thereby helping them to gain a proper understanding of what they do and how people work together and having a peer from a different area acting as a mentor and sounding board to help enhance my understanding of the Group and how we do things).  Like all businesses, there is still room for improvement, but that is why I have joined...

Learning from my current experience as a new leader into a business, I think that most organisations can do much more to help the creation of suitable foundations that will enable swift, positive contributions and ensure on-going success.  In my opinion a new leader should:

  • be given a senior mentor with whom they can discuss and devise an initial plan for their first three months in role;
  • be supported by fellow senior colleagues who are happy to act as sounding boards for proposed longer-term strategic goals - two of the hardest things for a new joiner into the leadership team to comprehend are the internal dynamics and personalities; true leaders and colleagues don't want a damaging failure or time-consuming problem to arise and it is to all the top team's advantage for their new colleague to get up to speed and start contributing as swiftly as possible;
  • be allowed the space and time required to observe and determine an appropriate long-term approach, rather than being pushed into being short-term task and results focused;
  • be given the support and confidence to challenge the "usual ways of doing things round here", so long as they can propose a viable alternative that could prove to be better;
  • be encouraged to envisage desired outcomes and given time to write a plan with milestones of objectives to be achieved during the initial period;
  • after a month with the new employer, the in-coming leader should be asked to share their initial impressions of the business and ways in which the organisation could be enhanced - this is of value to all parties; and
  • be allowed to propose ways that the experience of joining the organisation could be improved to the benefit of others in the future.


Much though I enjoy being the fresh pair of eyes at the executive table, I am aware that the success of my organisation has been built by the people around me.  Since our founding in 1976, an extraordinary combination of individuals have worked across the globe to create the diverse scope of flourishing and mutually supportive businesses that we are today.  Our offering ranges from a philanthropic arm to the provision of significant, in-depth professional advice.  Businesses need to benefit from a combination of the old and the new.  New joiners are able to add to the strengths and understanding of their existing colleagues: introducing fresh thinking and raising awareness of alternative approaches that can enable greater achievements and organisational vigour.   It is through changing and adapting in an appropriate manner that organisations ensure ongoing success.   To get the best out of existing and new employees, businesses need to invest in enabling people to succeed and to provide an environment in which they can thrive.

I am reminded of one of last year’s great oenology events and diving success stories.  In 2010 a group of divers found a number of bottles of Champagne thought to pre-date the French Revolution as part of the contents of a wreck on the Baltic seabed.  Research was undertaken to verify the age and provenance of the wine.  Judging by the bottle shape and the pattern on the cork, it was believed and has now been verified that 47 of the bottles were made by Clicquot (now Veuve Clicquot) between 1839 and 1840.  At the time that Francois Cliquot married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798 the business that he ran was a group of concerns including banking, wool trading and Champagne production.  Francois died in 1805 leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of the group.  It is due to her that the Champagne house changed its name.  She was instrumental in steering the business to significant success, one legacy of which is that it is one of the world’s most famous Champagne houses still operating today.  The discovered bottles of Champagne were apparently on the way to the court of the Russian Czsar in St. Petersburg when they were lost at sea.  A single bottle, of what is agreed to be the world’s oldest drinkable Champagne, was bought at auction last year, as a gift to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of a Singaporean restaurateur.  The bottle sold for 30,000 Euros (considerably more than its original asking price when being sold to the Russians).  Here is some more information about it:


A bottle from the same batch was sampled by the divers and experts from the Champagne house.  Taking into account that wine tastes have evolved – popular Champagne in the mid 1880’s was much sweeter than that which appeals to most modern palates – the Clicquot has aged well.  It is very sweet but has a fruity nose (i.e. aroma) with complex dried fruit and tobacco tastes accompanied by small bubbles when sipped.  Great care had to be taken when raising the bottles from their fifty metre resting place, to ensure that they did not suffer from “the bends” and pop their corks due to the decreased pressure at the surface.  Once back on land the corks have been replaced to ensure that the wine’s condition is retained.  I hope I can leave as lasting and wonderful a legacy as La Veuve Cliquot.

Given the right conditions a thing of value, be it a leader of a business or an exclusive bottle of fine wine, can continue to develop and enhance, becoming increasingly interesting and significant. 


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Happy New Year!

1 comment:

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